Research themes

The Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) is a research institute of the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, established in 1986. The overarching research theme of ROA relates to the changing demand for skills, the acquisition of skills over the life course and the utilization of skills. This focus is elaborated upon in ROA’s Research and Policy Plan.

ROA’s mission is to conduct high quality research that has a strong societal impact. Building on a strong position in academia, ROA aims to inform and inspire policymakers and academics, and thereby to contribute to both scientific research and public and organizations’ skills policies. ROA’s research programme is organised in four themes:

  1. Education and Transition to Work
  2. Health, Skills, and Inequality
  3. Labour Market and Training
  4. Human Capital in the Region

The first two themes focus on education and skills as point of departure and study the drivers and outcomes at the individual, organizational and societal level. The last two programs study the developments in skill supply and demand on the labor market and the interactions between the two at the national and regional level.

ROA is also the home base for Education Lab Netherlands, a research network working to improve education by ensuring that educational policy and practice is informed by scientific evidence (for more information, see


Education and Transition to Work

Program director: Prof. Dr. Carla Haelermans



The Education and Transition to Work programme aims to provide a better knowledge about the Dutch education system and the transition to the labour market after that. The focus lies on optimising the development of students and optimising choices during the school career and towards the transition to the labour market.
We look at education from several different angles: First and foremost as the institution in which skills are gathered and in which students learn. We look at how different choices of students or schools, such as using educational technology, developing policies to prevent grade retention, or offering flexible trajectories, or external factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, influence student learning. But education also marks the moment in which selection and allocation for example into specialisations take place. And is has a socialising role, of which inequality in education is the largest topic in our programme. We look at the performance of education at different levels: the macro level (national education systems), the meso level (schools / classes), the micro level (students), as well as the relationships between these levels. In doing so, we consider the complete educational chain as well as all levels, from primary education to (higher) vocational and university education. 

Important questions are:

1.    What (policy) factors influence student performance?
2.    What is the role of technology and AI in education?
3.    How do school careers develop and how successful is the transition to work?
4.    How do changes in the labour market affect the optimal functioning of education?

Research themes

•    Educational performance
•    School careers, school performance and school quality
•    Transition to work
•    Educational technology/AI
•    Topical studies, e.g. grade retention, the transition from primary to secondary education, gender
      differences, creativity
•    (In)equality of education


Health, Skills, and Inequality

Program director: Prof. Dr. Mark Levels



With this program we explore how Western countries can best prepare today’s youth and workers for tomorrow’s labour market and society. We study how the complex interplay of social background, cognitive and non-cognitive abilities, skills, capabilities, culture, and health explains observed inequalities in education and on the labour market. We assess how current societal and economic trends and technological innovations help to shape the labour markets of the future, study what the implications of these trends are for social inequalities, and assess how individuals, firms, and governments can best respond. We especially focus on some of the most vulnerable groups in Western societies: marginalized adolescents, NEETs, kids from socially disadvantaged families and neighbourhoods, low-skilled workers, older workers, unhealthy children, teens, immigrants.

Important questions are:

  1. Which skills and capacities are essential for successful participation in society and on the labour market?
  2. To what extent do current technological revolutions affect social inequalities in successful participation in society and on the labour market, how, and why?
  3. How, at what time and under which circumstances are the relevant skills best learned?
  4. Which circumstances, capabilities, and lifestyle choices influence our capacity to learn, grow, and flourish?

Research themes

  • Automation of work and future inequalities.
  • Acquisition of cognitive and non-cognitive skills.
  • Health, lifestyles, and social inequalities.
  • Vulnerable groups.


Labour Market and Training

Program director: Prof. Dr. Didier Fouarge



In both research and policy, there is a growing attention for the cognitive and non-cognitive skills that allow workers to perform their tasks at work in an optimal way. An important challenge is to better understand what drives the dynamics in the demand for and the supply of skills in relation to the growing flexibility of the labour market, the growing complexity of work, and internationalisation and automation that affect the nature of workers’ tasks.

This program has three main themes:

Labour market information, and occupational and recruitment choices

  • Technological development/innovation on expected demand for supply for skills in the medium term.
  • The educational choices of youngsters, and occupational sorting over life course.
  • Adjustments in labour supply over the career.
  • Changes in the workers’ tasks and how it affects the demand for skills.
  • Commonality of tasks between jobs and the transfer of skills across occupations.
  • Relation between work and wage dynamics.
  • recruitment.

Lifelong learning and employability

  • Trends, determinants and effects of lifelong learning
  • Sustainable employability and reintegration of groups with a weak labour market position.
  • Effects of HRD and HRM for organization and employees at the organization and sector level.
  • Sustainable employability from a multidisciplinary perspective (change in tasks, skills, workload and health) and how this is anticipated or recovered.
  • Training policies and learning cultures in firms.
  • Impact of New Ways of Working.

Older workers and retirement

  • Labour market for the elderly and retirement decisions.
  • Skills and retirement.
  • Employability of the low-skilled and the elderly.
  • Relation between skill obsolescence, training, employability, productivity. and labour participation.
  • Replacement processes in firms.


Human Capital in the Region

Program director: Prof. Dr. Frank Cörvers



Human capital investments made at the regional level are important to match labour supply and demand, and to stimulate labour force participation, productivity, innovation and growth. Many regional policy makers are challenged by:

  • A lacking responsiveness of the regional educational system to new economic and technological developments.
  • Demographic transitions in the form of increasing migration flows and population ageing, with a declining or more diverse inflow of young people joining the workforce.
  • An insufficient regional pool of up-to-date qualified and highly-able teachers.

These challenges differ between central (‘Randstad’) regions on the one hand and peripheral (‘Randland’) regions on the other, with the latter often being border areas that are more prone to demographic shrinkage. Employers, schools, local governments and private and public employment services can improve the transition between (vocational) education and the labour market by cooperating at the regional level.

Research themes

  • Regional push and pull factors with respect to working and living for people at the higher, intermediate and lower educational level in both the Randstad and Randland areas.
  • Geographic mobility of workers regarding commuting and internal and international migration.
  • Regional educational infrastructure of vocational schools and higher education institutes.
  • Impact of demographic transitions (shrinkage and growth, ageing, migration) on regional labour markets, including the teacher labour market.
  • Barriers for international and cross-border mobility, including differences in tax, pension and social security systems, inefficient diploma recognition, poor cross-border public transport and road connections, language and cultural differences.
  • Labour force participation of vulnerable groups at the regional and local level, such as migrants, low-skilled and disabled people.